Google has reportedly been tapping into user data from rival Android apps for years to monitor how people interact with non-Google apps. All of this has been happening as part of a private Google project where all the data is kept in an “Android Lockbox”.
The report comes from research by The Information which reveals that Google collected data on TikTok when it started working on a rival app called YouTube shorts. However, this is only one example out of many as the search engine giant has reportedly been using data from email and social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram for similar purposes.
This type of behavior can easily be seen as anti-trust and could get the company in trouble if the US Department of Justice files anti-trust charges against the company. The report comes at a time where the company is already under scrutiny in the US for antitrust concerns. Google CEO Sundar Pichai is due for testifying in Congress and the company is facing antitrust investigations by almost every state in the country.
The company has disclosed using this data before saying that it is only collected if users agree to share information as part of the Android setup process. Although people are told that this data is used to provide them with a more personalized experience, the report from The Information claims that its also used for competitive purposes.
Google is not the first company that has been accused of doing so as other big names such as Amazon and Facebook have also been involved in similar controversies. Facebook reportedly used one of its VPN services in 2017 to monitor its rivals to plan acquisitions such as WhatsApp. The VPN was shut down in 2019.